One of the most respected journalists assigned to the Vatican is John Allen, correspondent for The National Catholic Reporter, a progressive U.S. newspaper. Mr. Allen wrote a book entitled All the Pope’s Men in 2004 which sets out to build bridges between his readers (especially those in North America) and those who work at the Vatican. The book was written in the small town of Gubbio, Italy. This is most appropriate as it is the town where St. Francis brought reconciliation between the feared wolf and the villagers. Truly a story of healing and understanding.
Probably the most important point the book makes is that there is no such as thing as “the Vatican”. That presumes that there is a group of people in Rome (them) who all share the same mindset which at times is at odds with what average Catholics (us) want. (Actually the Vatican refers to the location in Rome. The administrative headquarters of the Roman Catholic Church is more correctly known as the “Holy See”.)
Allen makes the point that the Holy See is made up of all sorts of people; young and old, conservative and liberal, service-oriented or power hungry.
The Holy See reflects the diversity of the Church. Sometimes these diverse perspectives are at odds with one another. Allen gives the example of one high ranking official who was displeased by the use of dance in the liturgy such as might be seen in a special Hawaiian mass. He issued directives that this should not be done. At the same time, the Master of Ceremonies for the Pope was encourage local communities to use cultural expressions, such as dance when the Holy Father was celebrating liturgy in their countries. Which one spoke for the Vatican? Both.
Another interesting point is that much of the tensions between North American’s and the Holy See stems from Vatican officials associating authority in the Church to Holy Orders. Everything flows from priesthood. Others would say that all baptised members of the Church can share in that authority and service. Allen presents a balanced perspective on both beliefs.
This is a really informative book that people who are interested in the Church should definitely read.